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Istithmar World and Nakheel enter into strategic partnership with Cirque du Soleil

Under the terms of the agreement, the remainder of the business will continue to be owned by Cirque du Soleil's Founder, Guy Laliberté, and his team. Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil has annual sales in excess of US$700 million and attracts nearly ten million visitors a year, making it one of the world's largest entertainment businesses.

Nakheel and Cirque du Soleil announced a 15-year partnership in May 2007 to develop a permanent show on Palm Jumeirah. The two organisations will jointly design and build a 1,800-seat theatre that will be home to the first ever Cirque resident show to be staged outside of the United States and the Far East. Designs for the theatre are underway, as are plans for the custom-produced show. Palm Jumeirah will also host Cirque du Soleil's world famous touring show ‘Alegria' in spring 2009 as a prelude to the permanent show which is due to open on the island in summer 2011.

Outlining the strategic significance of the partnership, David Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, Istithmar World Capital, said: "Cirque du Soleil marks Istithmar World's first foray into the live entertainment space, which is a key to our media focus. As a longstanding market leader in the live entertainment segment, Cirque du Soleil represents the ideal platform for Istithmar World to fuse its strong investment network into a highly focused and dynamic institution, with tremendous scope for growth across markets.

"Besides being a global tourist hub, Dubai is home to one of the fastest growing entertainment and media markets in the world, presenting a huge opportunity for such world-class cultural and entertainment facilities to add to the emirate's rich tourism and leisure offerings. This partnership comes in line with Istithmar World's strategy of realising the true growth and expansion potential of portfolio companies, as it continues to diversify and strengthen its private equity initiatives."

Guy Laliberté, founder and principal shareholder of Cirque du Soleil, said: "This partnership is a unique opportunity that puts forward the dream I have forged for Cirque du Soleil to continue at another level. We have found the right partners in our long-term growth in the form of Dubai World and this marks a watershed moment in our evolution. With this partnership, I can retain control of my business with the support and input of a partner that is recognized and highly respected throughout the world.

"In the coming weeks we will implement a development structure that will allow us to become a major player in Dubai. In addition to establishing a permanent theatre in Dubai, we will open a show production office, a ticketing company and a technical equipment and set design rental company," he added. "Having Istithmar and Nakheel as strategic partners will enable us to be even more dynamic and effective in international development – Cirque du Soleil will be in a position to concentrate on our two main priorities: managing growth responsibly and meeting global creative challenges.

"This partnership is the best of both worlds for me and my management team; we can keep control of our creative challenges and operations while accelerating our growth doing projects all over the world.  The opportunity to be involved in an entertainment project of this scale in conjunction with the resources of Istithmar World and Nakheel is extremely exciting for all of us at Cirque du Soleil," Laliberté said.

Chris O'Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Nakheel, said: "Cirque du Soleil shows have always been major draws in attracting tourists from all over the world to such global leisure destinations as Las Vegas and Macau. The company's touring show, which was performed here in Dubai last year, was one of the most successful single entertainment projects ever to be staged in the region and we are excited about welcoming a new touring show ‘Alegria' in Spring next year. We are also confident that an original show and a brand new purpose-built venue on Palm Jumeirah will capture the imagination and provide a further draw for tourists around the world to visit Dubai."

Eminent for its role in revolutionising the live entertainment industry, Cirque du Soleil is currently producing 18 unique shows around the world for 2008, including new permanently based shows in Macau, Tokyo and Las Vegas, slated to open later this year. The company has been credited with creating an entirely new performance genre by blending traditional circus acts with dance, music, mime and vivid theatricality. Its Quidam show in 2007 was among the most successful single entertainment projects ever to be staged in Dubai, with more than 100,000 people attending the month-long run at Nakheel's Ibn Battuta Mall.